32 posts from January 2006

Hot dog and a shake, that's what you're hungry for...

I've been a Chicagoan (more specifically, a Chicago suburbanite) for nearly 19 years now and I love it.  However, there is one facet of this life that I just cannot seem to embrace.

The dreaded Chicago-style hot dog...

(photo from www.phooeyhoo.com - a person who actually likes these things)

Some call it a work of art.  Others think of it as the pinnacle of Chicago-born cuisine.

To me it's nothing but a train wreck on a bun.

Here's the laundry list of "ingredients," for lack of a better word, contained on this beast:

  • steamed poppy seed bun
  • Vienna beef hot dog
  • yellow mustard
  • sweet green relish
  • chopped white onion
  • two slices of tomato
  • marinated hot peppers
  • long vertical slice of a dill pickle
  • celery salt

Look at all that crap.  I know it says there is a hot dog in there somewhere; but where exactly?  I certainly can't find it.

Before you go and say, "you've gotta try it before you pass judgment on it," I would like to take this opportunity to detail my experiences with the varied items that top this tubular anomaly.

Hot dog and bun... bring 'em on.  I love them!

Yellow mustard... nope.  Don't like it.  I will admit that I'm starting to develop a taste for Grey Poupon-style mustard.  But only in small amounts.

Sweet green relish... I don't mind it terribly.  But I prefer it when mixed in with stuff like tuna salad and egg salad.  I've never really had it plain before.

White onion... I've never been much of an onion boy.  I always find them to be too extreme in flavor and prefer them in moderation and cooked down so the flavor isn't quite so harsh.

Tomato... love them.  Raw, cooked, whole, sliced, chopped, puree'd, you name it.

Marinated hot pepper... never been much of a fan although I do eat them sliced, occasionally, on nachos.  I've never eaten them whole outside of a situation in which a dare was involved.  What exactly are they marinated in?

Dill pickle... just. plain. evil.  I can't take pickles.  But it's funny, because I will eat a few other items that have been pickled.  Just not cucumbers.  If God meant for cucumbers to be shriveled and smelly, they'd come out of the ground that way.  It's just cucumber blasphemy, I tell ya.

Celery salt... not bad.  It can be a bit overbearing at times, but it is generally a good spice.

So, as you can see, I have my ups and downs with the amalgam of tastes on this "delicacy."  However, I just have trouble fathoming the idea of eating all these things together in a single bite.  No, I'm not one of those people who sets clear boundary lines between items on his dinner plate and finishes each item one at a time.  Not at all.

But I am a simple boy.

My ham- and cheeseburgers only have lettuce, tomato, and ketchup on them.  If I'm feeling really exotic, I may put a little mayo on it.

Pizza usually only has one or two toppings on it at a time.  Pepperoni, sausage, and spinach are my go-to favorites.  Those mega-topping pizzas that Pizza Hut and Domino's, among others, have been advertising in recent years make my stomach turn.

Although the idea fascinates me, my sandwiches have never reached Dagwood Bumstead-esque stature.

While foo-foo umbrella mixed drinks are good every once in a while, I much prefer a simple tequila, Jack and Coke, etc., any day of the week.

And my hot dogs... oh, my hot dogs.  I've only ever topped them with ketchup and, occasionally, cheese.

* a throng of pure-blooded Chicagoans light their torches and grab their pitchforks

Yes, I said KETCHUP!  I. like. ketchup.  Now, stop thinking of me as though I'm the Antichrist, will ya?

I've had Chicagoans tell me that ketchup is the downfall of hot dogs.  That you cannot possibly enjoy the taste of a dog with this stuff on it.

To those people I ask, how can you possibly enjoy the taste of a hot dog with everything I detailed above on it?  At least I can taste the hot dog!  And, as it's the focal point of the name of this menu item, I think it should be the most prominent taste, don't you?

However, as I have lived in this area for nearly 20 years of my life, I almost feel as though I need to try one of these monstrosities just to be able to say, "I did it."  This may be as close to a Fear Factor moment as I ever come in my life. 

But I need some help.

Tell me that when all these disparate tastes are brought together on reconstituted pig parts, they all cancel each other out and I won't taste any of it.  Or tell me that the flavors or odors, when mixed, work like a sort of novocaine for your taste buds (that would go far to explaining their popularity in this city).

Reassure me that no permanent scarring will occur to either my psyche or my stomach lining.

Convince me that this is one of those "moral imperative" situations that I must endure to truly be a Chicagoan.

God help me.

Ninja survive... with you there's no need to hide...

Nope, no freaky dreams last night that I remember.  No more celebrities in my life just yet.

However, at a little after five this morning, I was awoken by a creaking floor board.  Not just the normal "house settling" sorts of sounds you hear at night.  This was actually one that was audible enough to sound exactly like what happens when we hit steps three and five of the lower level of stairs or hit that sweet spot in the hallway that we were desperately trying to fix with screws before the new carpet was laid a while back.

My eyes shot open and I was bolt upright in bed.  And, no, I wasn't being paranoid.  Katie did, too.  She looked at me and whispered, "did you hear something?  Is there someone in the house?"

I said, "I don't know." And then proceeded to do what could only be considered to be sleep-deprivation-induced temporary insanity, I went to investigate.

But not before arming myself.

MisckatanaAs I don't own a gun (despite both Katie and I possessing FOID cards -- Firearm Owners Identification) and Katie won't let me keep my katanas handy (they're both in the attic), I reached for the closest thing that would work as a weapon... a coffee mug.

Hindsight being 20/20, a coffee mug may not have been the best choice.  Especially since these were handpainted mugs that were given to us as wedding shower gifts.  But it was the closest thing I could find other than a belt, and I just don't see whipping as the ideal defense method against home intrusion.

So I grabbed my mug... er... deadly weapon and ventured forth.  I told Katie to hit the light on my order.  I decided that I would use the light to my advantage if there was anyone in the hallway.  With the light behind me, I would need little to no pupillary adjustment time.  The intruder, on the other hand, would have the light shining right in their face and give me the upper hand.

Katie missed the whole "on my order" bit and turned the light on before it was to my back, effectively blinding me instead of the perp.  So much for the element of surprise.

When my eyes finished adjusting, I went out in the hallway and looked around a bit.  No signs of life, no broken windows, no open doors.

I went back to bed. 

And woke back up a half hour later to my alarm clock.

I need a better weapon.  Where's my Donnie Baseball Louisville Slugger when I need it?

Wake up, Maggie...

I slept like hell last night.  Tossing and turning.  Constantly waking up.  Absolutely terrible.

But, there is one good thing to come of it... lots of wonderfully messed up dreams for me to detail for you.  I just don't get how these dreams came to be.  Not one bit.

MiscmaggiegyllenhaalI had one dream where I was being enrolled in military school by my parents.  No explanation given for why I wound up there, I just did.  Compound that with the fact that I'm clearly in my late 20s (a time when I was also married), and you've got a twisted scenario.  So I'm walking across the campus with my parents and I'm in full uniform despite the fact that this is my first day there.  I'm not even enrolled at this point yet I've got a uniform.  We go to the mess hall for lunch and meet my new roommates... Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal.  Of course, I'm as stunned in my dream as you probably are just reading this post.  They're right there in front of me in their uniforms.  Maggie welcomes me while Jake has his head buried in his food.  She looks good in uniform.  Or, at least, she did in this dream.

Not much more to that one.

Another dream involved me moving into some huge, multilevel, manor-style house.  I've had dreams such as this before where I spend most of the dream exploring all the little nooks and crannies of the place.  And this just so happens to be the same house I've dreamt about prior.  But what made this dream a bit different was when I met Kiefer Sutherland on one of the floors.  He lived there as well.  Continued to live there despite the fact I just moved in.  It was amazing how accepting of this fact I was even though it was my house.  We get to talking and he's asking me about trying to pick a celebrity to impersonate at a party he's going to.  So he tries out a Christopher Walken impersonation on me and, in all honesty, he's quite adept at it.  He says it was from the time he costarred with him in At Close Range many years ago. 

In my real life, I've never seen that movie.  I don't even know what it's about or who's in it (other than Sean and Chris Penn because People magazine detailed in their article about Chris' death that this was the only time they ever worked together).  And, looking it up at IMDb as I just have, I found that they both are in it.

That's just creepy.

And I'll wrap this post up with a non-celebrity dream.

Katie and I were in some appliance repair shop picking up something that was being, well, repaired.  Go fig, eh?  We pay for whatever it is and they give us our change.  Mixed in the change is this weird gold coin I've never seen before.  Looking at it a bit more closely reveals that it's a coin from the Confederate States of America and has the year 1862 on it.  I'm a bit taken aback, obviously.  But I ask the clerk what's going on anyway.  He says he received a bunch of them earlier in the day and is trying to get rid of them because he thinks they're counterfeit and doesn't want to get in trouble with his boss.  I immediately buy the remainder of the coins from his drawer and leave.

Did the C.S.A. even mint coins?  I know they had paper money and all other forms of printed legal tender, but coins?

I'm so confused.

Here we go marching to Mars...

Since I get out of class almost three hours before Katie does on Saturdays (today included), I thought that I would finally be able to play some catch up on a few TiVosodes that have been sitting in queue.

Well, it didn't quite work out that I got through as much as I would have hoped.  I wound up sitting in front of the iMac watching a downloaded episode of The Office (the one with the Christmas party).  We started watching this show a few weeks ago because it was right after My Name is Earl on Thursdays.  I've tried watching it before but never got into it.  Now I'm into it and in a big way.  I'll be playing some catch up with that one.  Oh, and I do highly recommend the Christmas party episode.  Hilarious.

I did get to watch my TiVosode of Veronica Mars from this past week.  It's been well over a month since I've watched the show as it's been off schedule for a while.  I've missed it.  And I'd almost forgotten what had happened thus far this season.

Despite this minor memory loss, I watched anyway without refresher and was sucked right back into my own Neptune-set heaven.

Holy Hell!  This was one of the best episodes I've ever seen.  Talk about coming back with a bang (not necessarily literally).  This episode was so chock full of twists and turns that any Hollywood blockbuster screenwriter and director should bow down in awe of the great Rob Thomas (no, not the guy from Matchbox 20).  The man knows what he is doing and I'm now drooling in anticipation of future episodes.


Why Miss Mars, that's a mighty big lens you've got.

Candy, candy, candy, I can't let you go...

My parents recently purchased a big tub of soft mint candies known as Bob's Sweet Stripes for me to bring in to my office to share with everyone.  Each candy in the tub is individually packaged in its own plastic wrapper.

A few days ago, while picking out a couple to snack on, I found this little oddity.  I really have no idea how this one slipped by quality control.

Or, perhaps, candy is capable of asexual reproduction.  I really don't know.  (Sorry the photo is a bit blurry... bad lighting and little to no experience with how to use macro settings.)

Asexual Reproduction

You're my funny valentine; sweet comic valentine...

Here's your number one sign that the Apocalypse is upon us... ThinkGeek.com is selling Valentine's Day themed swag.

MiscthinkgeekI was caught a bit offguard when I saw an e-mail come in to my account with the subject line "Roses are #FF0000 at ThinkGeek."  For those who don't know, "#FF0000" is the hexadecimal code for pure red that web developers use (most graphic designers use Pantone, not hex codes).  I was not sure what to make of it.  Had the haven for geek toys on the web really sold out by shilling V-Day stuff to the relationship-challenged?

Thankfully, the e-mail seemed to maintain a geek-like perspective.  Here was the message in the e-mail...

Apparently there is this concept called a relationship where two entities interact with each other in ways that at least one of those entities considers meaningful.  Kind of like Hal9000 and Dave. Or R2 and C3P0. Supposedly somebody then decided there should be an entire day devoted to nothing but the observation of such relationships. Why? We haven't figured it out yet completely. We just know it means you want to get appropriately unique gifts for whomever your special entity is. Our special entity is still in Beta, otherwise we would share more details.

I had to click on the link.  It struck me as imperative.

It was then that I discovered, much to my joy, that these gifts do indeed have a geek lean to them.

They had a flashing LED heart (how sweet), HTTPanties (the 403 error is hilarious), a CAT-5 cable bracelet (I want one of these - XL if anyone wants to send me one), and a Swarovski crystal fuze necklace (very cool, I might add), among others.

But my creme de la creme gift, and one I want to get for Katie (not necessarily as a V-Day gift, but just to get it) just because it's cute and it's appropriate considering she just recently finished two years of chemistry classes and is currently enrolled in an anatomy course, is their Sweetheart Babydoll T-shirt.  Here's what the logo on the front shows...


This shirt is hilarious and I know, if she wore it to class, she would be the center of attention for at least a few minutes and her profs would love it.  The top part is the molecular structure for sucrose (sucrose = sugar = sweet) and then a cross section of a heart below it. 

Sweet + heart = sweetheart.  Cute, eh?

I'm just going to have to be careful as babydoll T-shirts are a dangerous thing to buy.  Katie doesn't really own any, she's more of a normal T-shirt kind of girl.  Do babydoll T-shirt sizes equate to normal T-shirts?  I'm thinking I would need to buy something a size larger, but I'm not sure.

No, this gift is obviously not going to be a surprise for her as she will probably read this post.  And I'm sure that even though she's smacking her forehead in geek-intolerant disbelief as she reads this, she still thinks it's cute.

Just take those old records off the shelf...

Heaven came to me yesterday in the form of a small, white, cardboard package.

I didn't get the mail from the mailbox because Katie beat me to the punch so I didn't even realize that something had come in for me until nearly 10 p.m. after we got back from the gym.  When we got home, Katie started sifting through the mail and handed me the small package with a quizzical look on her face.

I looked at the return address and saw Milan, MI.  It was Eric!  My music source!

Immediately, I grabbed a paring knife and tore through the packing tape.  Inside was a pair of CD-Rs with several albums burned to it in MP3 format for my listening pleasure. 

This morning I copied the first CD to my computer so I could start listening to it on my way to and while I was at work to help me decide if the albums were worth spending money on.

And you thought I had an eclectic taste in music?  Check out this list...

Animal Collective - Feels
This is definitely an interesting album.  Not sure, overall, just how I feel yet.  I've only listened to one or two tracks from it.  I'll have to hold judgment until I've heard the whole thing.

My Morning Jacket - Advance and Z
I'm not sure if Advance is just a teaser or a single, but there was only one track on it ("One Big Holiday") and it's not bad.  Z is a pretty good album.  This one'll get some listening.

Nouvelle Vague - Nouvelle Vague
At first, I didn't really care for this album, but it grew on my as I listened to more songs from it.  The singer has a pretty dream-like voice.  One that could easily lull me to sleep.  A happy sleep, mind you; not a boredom-induced one.  Plus, they have an intriguing cover of Depeche Mode's "Just Can't Get Enough."  And we all know what a DM freak I've become as of late.

MiscsigurrostakkSigur Rós - Ágætis Byrjun (2 discs) and Takk...
If the characters in those album titles look weird, it's because I tried to copy and paste them directly from their iTunes info screen.  They are not easily captured using an English-based keyboard.  Eric has sent me Sigur Rós albums before and I never really dug on them.  They were just a little too... well... weird, for lack of a better word.  It's a very sedate, almost trippy kind of sound (I'm sorry, but I'm not very good at attaching words to sound).  I can see this being the soundtrack to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, to some degree.  But I like these albums so far, particularly Takk...  I'm not sure if my tastes are changing to the point where I can appreciate Sigur Rós or if their sound has changed.  Either way, I think I'm going to have to give their other albums another listen.

The Go! Team - Thunder, Lightning, Strike
Again, another one that I've only heard a few songs from so far, but I do like it.  I've heard "Feelgood By Numbers" and "Bottle Rocket."  More to come from my ride home tonight.

Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary
This is my favorite of the bunch.  It became my background music as I sat in Dunham Hall reading during my lunch break.  A lot faster than most of the other stuff I was sent, while still retaining a moody quality to it.  "It's a Curse" is probably my stand-out song.  Don't ask me why.  It just is.  Accept it and give it a listen.

Now, here's where things may seem a bit odd.  All that alternative music and then he throws in the following albums...

Dusty Springfield - Dusty in Memphis
I haven't really listened to this one yet at all.  I've never been much of a Dusty Springfield fan, but I'm sure I'll give it a listen when I've gotten through everything else.

Henry Mancini - Greatest Hits
This is some good stuff!  I've always liked Mancini's music harkening back to my youth and teenaged years when I was obsessed with the video game Spy Hunter which incorporated a variation of Mancini's "Peter Gunn" as the background music.  This album also has "The Pink Panther Theme," "Love Theme from Romeo & Juliet," "Moon River," and "Breakfast at Tiffany's."  Also included are vocal variations of "Days of Wine and Roses" and "Whistling Away the Dark," among others.  But the kicker on this album is the final song; and, when I saw the title, it blew my mind... "What's Happening!"  No, you're not seeing things.  It is THE theme song to the classic 1976-79 sitcom featuring best friends Raj, Rerun, and Dwayne and, of course, Shirley and Dee.  Yeah, now it's all coming back to you, isn't it?  I had no idea that Henry Mancini composed that theme.  I was bebopping in my car as that one played.  Great stuff!

I've still got one CD-R to load on the ol' iMac.  That'll likely happen later tonight.

Keep 'em coming, Eric!

There's a man who leads a life of danger...

Everybody had their fantasy life as a child.  What you always wanted to be when you "grew up," right?  Some wanted to be doctors.  Others wanted to be explorers.  Then there are the requisite actors, singers, astronauts, and firefighters.

In my vision of the ideal "real world," I wanted to be an astronaut or a firefighter.  I either wanted to soar into the unknown cosmos or save my fellow human from a massive architectural wonder on the verge of collapsing in flaming ruins.

Both dreams seemed realistic enough and, until just a few years ago, I was actually still chasing down one of them.

Then there is the fantasy "real world."  The place you retreated into and dreamt about knowing there was no conceivable way you could ever be "that person."  Maybe it was a superhero.  Perhaps a person from the past long since dead.

Watching CBS' Courting Alex last night, I was reminded of who I once wanted to be in my dreams.

No, not Jenna Elfman.

The one who played her dad.  You all know him... a man by the name of Dabney Coleman.  And, once upon a time, he played a dual role in a little film called Cloak & Dagger.

MisccloakanddaggerCloak & Dagger centers on Davey Osborne (Henry Thomas of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Legends of the Fall fame), a boy from San Antonio with an imagination even bigger than the great state of Texas.  He loved playing an imaginary game of spy vs. spy based on his favorite video game, the Atari game Cloak & Dagger. 

His fantasy world, which, more often than not, overlapped his reality, stars the hero of the video game, Jack Flack, played by Dabney Coleman who also doubled in the movie as his workaholic, widowed, Air Force father.  I'm sure you can deduce why Coleman played both roles.

Flack was a secret agent working for the U.S. who did his duty for his country in dark pants, a leather pilot's jacket, and his trademark beret (which, for whatever reason, did not make the poster art... blasphemy!). 

And he was badass, baby. 

He could fight off the enemies, reason his way out of any problematic situation, and he never needed weapons because he was Jack Flack.  Well, that and he was imaginary and his bullets likely don't transcend the fantasy-to-reality boundaries.

One day, Davey comes across a corrupted version of his favorite game, a cartridge with a chip built into containing blueprints for a stealth plane that can only be accessed by someone on the verge of solving the game.  And the badguys discover that Davey has this game.  With only his best friend, Kim (Christina Nigra), and Jack to help him, he tries to uncover the secret of the game and foil the enemies attempts to obtain it.

Cheesy?  To some degree, sure.  But it's still a fun movie that, unlike many others I loved as a child, I'm still able to enjoy.  And the ending was always pretty cool. 

And, despite him obviously not being real, I always wanted to be Jack Flack and I played out the role as often as I could.  Whenever I was playing spies with my friends, I was Jack Flack.  I could do it all and nobody could stop me, just like Dabney's character. 

Nope, Jack was not my imaginary friend.  I was Jack!  And my brother was typically relegated to the Davey role.  That's what he gets for being born after me.

Oh, how cool life would have been as a secret agent man.

Why can't I be Jack Flack?

Happy trails to you...

MiscbrokebackWe did it.  Yep, on Saturday, Katie and I shrugged off the naysayers, reassured ourselves of the strength of our heterosexual relationship, and saw Brokeback Mountain.

It really wasn't like that at all.  Actually, we've been looking forward to this film for some time now.  It has always struck us as looking like it would be a good film and, unlike some of my recent theatrical escapades, I actually went in with pretty high expectations.

We weren't let down.

It was a very well-made film and, despite being very slow paced, it was pretty exciting to watch everything unfold (no comments from the peanut gallery, okay?).  We walked into the film knowing that it's supposed to be a "gay cowboy flick," but our curiosity was piqued as to how it would all happen.  And it did.  It happened.  And both Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger did a great job portraying the two cowboys, Ennis Del Mar (Ledger) and Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal), at the center of all the conservative controversy.

Yes, Ledger was great and deserved the Golden Globe nomination he received.  Heck, having not see Walk the Line yet, I'd argue that he actually deserved the award.  So I'm assuming that Joaquin Phoenix was spectacular.  However, Gyllenhaal got shafted (get your mind out of the gutter) because he deserves as much credit for his acting as Ledger received.  Well, we've still got the Oscars coming up.  Hopefully, he'll get a nod from AMPAS.

I do highly recommend the movie even if you are having a case of "Gay Cowboy Movie" doubt.

But I did leave the theater with a couple of questions I'm hoping someone out there can clarify for me.

And I will put those in an extended post so those of you who have not yet seen the movie or do not want to read them, can avoid them altogether.

Continue reading "Happy trails to you..." »

Then put me on your shelf...

Part of the blessing (and, arguably, "curse") of homeownership is all the work you get to do in your house.  Tearing out old stuff, putting in new stuff, repainting, recarpeting, etc., etc., ad infinitum (with the emphasis on "ad infinitum").

Today, though, I tried something new... I built something.  And I don't just mean like cutting new rail boards and staining them.  I actually started building an entire piece of furniture.

Yes, welcome to...

The one in which Kevin kills a tree (or: how I learned to stop whining and build a bookshelf)
With apologies to Stanley Kubrick

This morning, I measured an existing bookshelf that we have.  I really like the construction on it and, being over 30 years old, you can't argue with its design.  I just wanted to make it a little longer as Katie and I have far too many books.

After Katie left for work, I started doing some other chores around the house and then I went to the Depot to pick up my supplies.

$67 later, I was ready to begin.

Book Shelf Building: the supplies

Some of the tools that occupied my garage over the next several hours.  I wound up using far more than just what you see here.  Good thing I've got quite a few tools to choose from.  No comments from the peanut gallery, okay?

Book Shelf Building: the measuring

I was always told "measure twice, cut once."  Well, not necessarily always, per se.  But it's a good thing I did.  I almost screwed up two of my seven boards.

Book Shelf Building: the initial construction

This is one of the sides with the top up above it.  I'm gluing some shelf supports on there near the bottom for the first shelf to give it a little added... well... support.  Better safe than sorry, eh?

Book Shelf Building: the end of day 1

At the end of day 1, this is what I've got done.  You have both sides, the top, the bottom, and a kickplate.  Or I think it's called a "kickplate."  No matter, that's what I'm gonna call it.  Not exactly a work of art, admittedly.  But it should be functional enough.  You've gotta start somewhere, right?

I'm hoping to finish this thing this weekend.  And without killing myself or someone else.

Oh the sweet refrain, soothes the soul and calms the pain...

Many men know, some all too well, what their greatest source of physical agony would be... being kicked or otherwise having some pain inflicted on "the boys" or muscles or nerves in their immediate vicinity.

Am I right, guys?  Can I get an "AMEN"!

Women will tell you that pregnancy is the worst pain in the world and, while I'm inclined to believe that passing a small watermelon through an opening that is naturally the size of the mouth of a shotglass would be painful, I, being a man, will never have to experience it.  Much like women need never worry about being kicked in the jibblies.

Well, having personally experienced an assault on my twig and berries and knowing the pain, there is only one other pain I can think of that terrifies me to no end and that has to do with the ever-so-sensitive, yet unceasingly necessary, Achilles tendon.

This is one that women would be able to identify with as well since they do have a pair of them on their bodies.  It is likely the greatest, non-mortal wound I can think of that both men and women can share.

MiscpetsemataryIt dates back to the 80s and my first viewing of the movie Pet Sematary.  Remember when that little bastard child that they resurrected in the pet cemetery was hiding under the bed in Fred Gwynne's house with his father's doctor kit and sliced old Herman Munster's Achilles tendon with a scalpel?  I was holding my ankle in sympathy pain for hours afterward.  I couldn't move.  I could actually really feel the pain coursing through my tendon and I still do, to this day, despite having never injured it.

I got a call this morning from a good friend of mine.  He informed me that he would like to take part in watching the Godfather movies with me and another friend today (we've been planning this for several days).  Apparently, he has a lot of time at home now since he ruptured his Achille's tendon yesterday playing basketball.  He was running backwards down the court, planted his foot to turn, and then just crumbled to the court in agony. 

He's gonna need surgery to repair the pain of pains.

And people wonder why I don't play basketball.  Too many bad memories and potential for more.

(Bonus points to the person who can ID the title and why it's appropriate)

Don't you know you're ridin' with King...

I know I've spoken my mind about this before, but I am now convinced... to truly enjoy any movie, it's best to go in with low to no expectations. 

MisckingkongYou wanna know how well this truly works?  I actually enjoyed King Kong... a movie that I had no desire to see whatsoever and only saw because my dad wanted to go see a movie with me today and that was the only thing showing that seemed even remotely watchable that neither of us had already seen.

Was it great?  No.  But not nearly as bad as I had made it out to be in my mind.

Do I think that maybe this is actually a quality film that comes in the guise of a holiday popcorn muncher?  No.  I wouldn't want to give the film or Peter Jackson that much credit.  Sure, the Lord of the Rings movies were good, but I'm still not sold on Jackson as a filmmaker.

Either way, I just know that I walked out of the theater having really enjoyed the movie and wanting to actually see it again.

But that will have to wait for Netflix.

It took me years to write, will you take a look?

I love being a blogger.  Essentially, it's because I enjoy writing and this site serves as a great stress reliever.  But, in addition to that, I love the communities I have become a part of via this blog.  I have met some incredible people over the months that I have been using Typepad.  And I love reading what others have to write.

So, why is it that I'm sometimes embarrassed to admit that I'm a blogger to some of my friends?

I know I shouldn't be, but some of the people that I know in my "real" world look down on blogging as though it's a blemish on society's face.  Something that should be excised or otherwise eliminated from their collective "reality."  And, the friends I've made via this site are, somehow, not "real" friends.

I just don't get it.

I had one friend who, when I told him I was going to a Depeche Mode concert with a friend from Washington, first asked how I knew someone from Washington and then, when I told him, he thought I was nuts for going with him. 


Another time, I was discussing hobbies with some friends and, when I said I was a blogger, one friend said, "oh, you're a blogger?"  The way he said it, I may as well have been the first human to carry the HIV virus or the Roman Centurion who nailed Christ to the cross.

I don't understand.

I have yet another friend who hopes that blogging is a fad and that it will die so that "real" writers can get the book deals they so richly deserve.  I've read a few books now written by fellow bloggers and I don't see why they didn't deserve their deals.  Their books are just as well written as anybody else's. 

Explain this one to me.

Why is blogging such a bad word?  Why are bloggers such evil people?  How are we any different than any other writers out there?  So we don't all have book deals, nor are most of us even seeking one.  We just like to write and share our writing with the world.  We can take criticism, hence why we put ourselves out there. 

SJ of Chronic Listaholic sent me this one today via e-mail and I love it because it addresses at least one of the questions in my previous paragraph...

MiscadageThere is no such thing as a blogger
Snip from Simon Dumenco's column in Ad Age:

I’ve been thinking of what I am -- about what any media person in the digital age is -- since having coffee last week with a 30-something newspaper editor who bemoaned the fact that newspapers keep on setting up blogs as these separate, exotic add-ons to their Web sites, instead of integrating blogging into their usual newsgathering operations. There’s simply no good reason to segregate the functions, he insisted.

And it occurred to me that there is no such thing as blogging. There is no such thing as a blogger. Blogging is just writing -- writing using a particularly efficient type of publishing technology. Even though I tend to first use Microsoft Word on the way to being published, I am not, say, a Worder or Wordder. It’s just software, people! The underlying creative/media function remains exactly the same.

Simon closed out his article with the following line...

Ultimately, it comes down to this: In the very near future, there are only going to be two types of media people: those who can reliably work and publish (or broadcast) incredibly fast, and those ... who can’t.

Thank you, Simon for writing this and SJ for bringing it to my attention.

Now to introduce this article to my non-believer friends...

Stick It!

Today, while driving home from Naperville after playing disc golf with my dad, I was driving behind a big ol' pick-up when I saw something that ruffled my feathers (ohmigod... did I just say "ruffled my feathers"?).  It's something that I have always taken issue with and has annoyed me since the very day they first started to permeate the market.

Misccalvinpeeing_1It was one of those God-awful stickers with the rip-off image of Calvin, of Calvin & Hobbes fame, peeing on something.  In the case of this truck, it was Calvin peeing on the words "anti-hunters".

I take issue with people who opt to place these stickers on the windows or bumpers of their vehicles.


First and foremost, I am a longtime fan of Bill Watterson's famed comic strip.  It remains one of the finest pieces of comic art even 15 years after it was canceled by Watterson (the only other comic strip I place on such a high pedestal is Berkeley Breathed's classic Bloom County).  So, I really hate these stickers for defaming such a wonderful piece of pop culture history.

Second, I have taste; these stickers do not.  They are not funny.  They are just plain stupid and, in all honesty, it makes me view the driver of the vehicle as nothing more than an ignorant moron. 

Three, it's old.  Didn't this Calvin bandwagon die years ago?  Why do I keep seeing these damn things everywhere?  They are so friggin' old.  Maybe they had some kind of humor value to a select group of idiots some time ago, but, I would hope, even they developed some semblance of taste with their progressive age.  Maybe not.

Four, I have a personal problem with pointless bumper stickers.  I truly do.  And every single one of these Calvin stickers certainly deserves my disdain.

So, please people... let's make a concerted effort to rid the world of this tasteless "joke."  Let people know that they look like idiots for putting these stickers in their windows.  If they protest, beat them with a billy club.  The point needs to be made and kapgar.com will serve as the official launch point for this grassroots campaign.

Episodes Elapsed: 58 (now in season 3)
Episodes Remaining: 38
Season 5 Premiere: Jan. 15 (D-day +1)
Official 24 Web site

I had to let you know that I got a crush on you...

MisckieferThere has been an unexpected side effect of all this 24 viewing that Katie and I have been doing.

She seems to have developed a crush on star Kiefer Sutherland.

I found this out when, during an episode in season 3, we saw Kiefer's alter ego, Jack Bauer, race away in a Ford Expedition (or was it an Excursion?). 

Katie turned to me and asked, "are you sure you want a Ford Escape?"

Me: "Um, yeah.  Why?"

Katie: "No reason."

Me: "Ooo-kay... wait.  You want me driving what Jack is driving, don't you?  You want me to be like Jack!"

Katie: (mischievous grin)

Me: "You have a crush on Kiefer Sutherland, don't you?"

Katie: (even more mischievous grin) "Maybe."

And thus begins my quest to win my wife back from Jack.  Damn you, Donald Sutherland.

Episodes Elapsed: 56 (season 2 done)
Episodes Remaining: 40
Season 5 Premiere: Jan. 15 (today)
Official 24 Web site

You're goin' back to school...

I started a new class today and it was pretty interesting.  It's entitled Managing Information Technology and it's, effectively, everything I do at work right now.  But it's not a particularly in-depth analysis.  That's saved for those students who are actually in the technology and operations management track of the M.B.A. program.

What I found both interesting and, simultaneously, scary was when my instructor came up to me after everyone in class had left, looked me in the eye, and asked, "are you actually going to get anything out of this class?"

I'm not quite sure how I should take that one.

Episodes Elapsed: 56 (now in season 3)
Episodes Remaining: 40
Season 5 Premiere: Jan. 15 (1 day)
Official 24 Web site

I don't care 'bout no wheelchair...

I was on one of my regular message boards today and someone had started a thread he called "anomalous phenomenon" in honor of today being Friday the 13th.  In it, he described how he wanted people to talk about little things that have happened to them or their friends that they could not explain.  He suggested, as a way of launching the thread, that we discuss stuff like alien sightings, ESP, ghosts, and whatnot. 

I've always been intrigued by the unknown and the inexplicable.  However, regarding this thread on the board, the most interesting to me was the chance to talk about visits from spirits.  I guess my interest was primarily because I've had a visitation of my own from a friend of mine.  And I thought maybe you'd like to hear about it.

Bear in mind that I do not consider this a Friday the 13th sort of story nor do I consider my friend's life "unlucky."  It was just a coincidence that someone on that board started the thread that got me thinking and on Friday the 13th of all days.

Oh yeah, this will likely be a pretty lengthy post.  Buckle up.

My friend, Mike, was a year ahead of me in school.  He was one of the greatest guys you could ever know.  Literally everyone liked him.  There wasn't a bad thing that could be said of him.  And he would go out of his way to help you with anything.

I became friends with him sometime during either my freshman or sophomore year of high school.  We had a couple math classes together here and there and hung out during lunch or other free periods.  He loved Star Wars, rock music, fast cars (his initials were M.P.H., after all), women, and sports.  And, being originally from Detroit like he was, he very much loved anything related to his hometown like the Pistons, Tigers, Lions, Ted Nugent, etc.  If he wasn't wearing his trusty Pistons floppy cap, which he almost always wore, he was probably donning a Lions ball cap.

But, moreso than anything else, he loved the band KISS (even if they were a New York band).  Obsessively so.  He had every album of theirs on cassette and CD and was working on vinyl.  He had imports, rarities, VHS, books, magazines, comic books, flags, hats, T-shirts, bandanas, etc.  His big goal was to save enough money to purchase the classic KISS pinball machine.

Mike was great to hang out with.  He always had something to say, but was a great listener as well.  There was never a boring moment spent with him.

He was full of life and lived it as much as he possibly could.  He took road trips, frequented concerts, watched sports, you name it.

But he was never able to play sports.

Mike had some kind of degerative disease that ate away at the musculature of his legs.  In the years that I knew him in high school, he was always on crutches.  When he got to college, he was remanded to a wheelchair.

But he never let it bother him.

He never once complained about being on crutches or in a wheelchair.  It was just a part of his life that he accepted and he moved on despite it.

He attended physical therapy on a regular basis in hopes of one day walking and he always believed he would and we, as his friends and family, knew that if there was ever anyone who could achieve this goal, it was Mike.  And, although I wasn't present for it, I was told that at his high school graduation, he crutched his way up to the stage and up the stairs and then walked his way across it to claim his diploma unassisted.

I wish I could have seen that.

When I began college, I was at Iowa State University.  It was the fall of '93.  Mike was now a sophomore at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. 

One day, I received a call from my mom that Mike had died.  They had found tumors along his spine and the official cause of death was some kind of cancer, I believe.  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  I cried, much like I am now just thinking about it.

Sometime during the day, I took a notecard and wrote some of the lyrics to a song that I loved on it.  The song was "Black Gold" by Soul Asylum from their Grave Dancers Union album.  The line was "I don't care 'bout no wheelchair, I got so much left to do with my life."  Under it, I wrote "Mike, I miss ya man."  Then I laminated it.

His mother called me later that day and asked if I would be a pallbearer in his funeral.  I was shocked and honored and really wanted to do it, but I had no idea how.  I was in the middle of Iowa, nearly six hours from home, with no car and no friends that could drive me home.

I talked about it to one of my only friends out in Ames, a girl in my biology class who was from Omaha.  She convinced me that I needed to at least try calling home and asking if one of my parents could come get me.  I called and my mom said that she was already planning on coming to pick me up.  I called Mike's mom back and said that I would be there and I would be honored to be a pallbearer.

Everything happened at the funeral as you would expect it to happen.  Service, burial, reminiscing with friends and family about the wonder that is Mike.

His mom gave me some of his stuff including several Star Wars books and some T-shirts.  But the thing she gave me that I most prized was a canvas cassette case with nearly all his KISS tapes in it.  I took the laminated card that I had made for Mike and stuck it in the zipper pocket on the front flap of the case.  It's still in there to this day.

That spring, I transferred to Northern Illinois University from ISU.  But, despite being much closer to home, I still never had a chance to visit Mike's grave.

Finally, when summer came, I made the time to visit him.

Sts. Peter and Paul Cemetery in Naperville is surrounded on two sides by the historic section of the downtown, another side by a large field, and the fourth side by a train track.  The way I was coming from, I had to cross a bridge over the tracks to get to the cemetery. 

As I crossed the bridge, I stuck my hand out the window towards the cemtery and announced, "Mike, I'm finally here to see you."

The second I finished this statement, the radio in my car went dead.

I had been listening to some local rock station playing Billy Squier and it cut to dead air.  Not just a couple seconds, either.  It lasted a full minute or more.  However long it took me to get across the bridge, turn left on another street, and then enter the cemetery.  As soon as I crossed the gate into the cemetery, the radio came back to life.  No acknowledgment from the station of any technical difficulties or whatnot. 

I got out of the car and found Mike's headstone.  I visited with him for quite a while.  I don't really remember exactly how long, to be honest.  Nor does it matter as he is my friend and no amount of time is too much, nor too little.

When I got back in my car, I started the engine and the radio came to life playing the song "Black Gold" right at the point in the chorus when they sing the wheelchair line.

I smiled.  I knew it was Mike.

But, just because he always liked goading me, he decided to hammer home the point a bit more.

As I crossed the gate out of the cemetery, Soul Asylum segued into KISS' "Detroit Rock City."

I put my hand out the window and said, "Okay Mike, that's enough for now" (although he has come back once or twice since then, not to mention the times he's visited his parents).

I smiled the whole way home.  And I'm smiling now.

Episodes Elapsed: 48 (season 2 done)
Episodes Remaining: 48
Season 5 Premiere: Jan. 15 (2 days)
Official 24 Web site

Why don't you mind your own business...

If you're in a business-related academic program, work in the business field, or just have a love or respect of the businessworld, then you, like I, probably enjoy watching the ups and downs of corporations.  You get a thrill as you see a business rise from nothing to be a real player... feel a sense of vindication as a company's head honcho gets busted for illegal dealings... tingle with excitement as a company ventures forth into a new business arena.

This last point is something that has been an item of interest for me for some time.  Especially since I'm very firmly rooted in the mass media world, both personally and professionally.

I find it interesting to see how a business likes to spread its wings and dip its toes in another pool.  Sometimes they thrive, sometimes they fail miserably.

Companies like Wal-Mart and Target have thrived by incorporating grocery stores in their mega-merchandise outlets.

Cable companies like Comcast have found a new source of income by offering internet service.

Starbucks Coffee is wading into the Hollywood foray by producing and distributing movies.

WOAH!  Stop the bus!  Come again?

MiscstarbucksYeah, I read this one and thought the same thing.  Starbucks Coffee, the Seattle-based caffeine giant has decided to try their hand at promoting movies.  They seem to think it's the next logical step after starting to sell CDs in their stores.

How is movie promotion the next logical step?

Starbucks selling CDs makes sense.  After all, they play music in their cafes to entertain you as you sit and sip.  You can sit there and listen and think, "Hey!  I like that.  How do I get my hands on it?" and then just buy it right there on the spot. 

Ideally, you have enough brains to do some comparison shopping first as Starbucks' prices are not always the best.

Do they play movies in their cafes?  No. 

When you're wondering what movie to see, does your local barista strike you as the ideal film critic?  No (although I am an amateur film critic and I was once a Starbucks barista; but I never really associated the two).

Just because music and movies are both forms of personal entertainment does not mean that having ties to one begets the other.

I'm really going to enjoy watching this one unfold.  Of course, the level of investment by Starbucks is minimal enough that, if it does fail, it won't really hurt them too terribly.

Why can't you invest the money in making your coffee cost less?

Episodes Elapsed: 46 (now in season 2)
Episodes Remaining: 50
Season 5 Premiere: Jan. 15 (3 days)
Official 24 Web site

I figure the odds be fifty/fifty, I might have somethin' to say...

Although she didn't really "tag" me with this meme, per se, SJ's belief that I would be the most likely to steal it left me feeling obligated.  So here's a new meme courtesy of SJ, which, in turn, is courtesy of Kazza.

Ten Questions (times five):

  1. What time did you get up this morning? 5:55 a.m.
  2. Diamonds or pearls? Personally, neither.  As a gift, diamonds.
  3. What was the last film you saw at the theater? Rumor Has It. Even though our overall theater-going is down, we saw a flurry of films over Christmas.  And, I have yet to review this one.  I'm slacking again.
  4. What is your current favorite TV show? 24.  The ticker below is marking Katie's and my progress toward completing all four of the original seasons before this Sunday's start of season 5.
  5. What did you have for breakfast? A carrot cake Clif Bar.  I was in a hurry.
  6. What is your middle name? Wayne.  Also my dad's middle name.
  7. What is your favorite cuisine? It all depends on my mood, but I typically like Mexican, Chinese, and Italian.
  8. What foods do you dislike? Mushrooms, pungent onions, pickles, etc.
  9. What is your favorite chip flavor? I prefer boring old normal chips.  Unless its Pringles in which case I prefer salt and vinegar.
  10. Miscdepechemodeultra_1What is your favorite CD at the moment? "Ultra" by Depeche Mode.  Katie's been listening to a lot of Depeche Mode lately, as well.  I've also been listening to Guster's "Lost and Gone Forever" quite a bit.
  11. What kind of vehicle do you drive? Ford Ranger.
  12. Favorite sandwich? Whatever lunchmeat I happen to have around.  Otherwise, ham/turkey subs at Subway.
  13. What characteristics do you despise? Hypocrisy is the worst.
  14. Favorite item of clothing? Jeans.  It seems so rare that I get to wear them anymore.
  15. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? Australia and Ireland are very high on my list right now.
  16. What color is your bathroom? North/south walls are a very light khaki while the east/west walls are a light blue.
  17. What color pants are you wearing? Khaki.
  18. Where would you like to retire to? Haven't thought that far in advance other than the fact that I would simply like to retire, period.
  19. Favorite time of the day? Sunset.
  20. What was your most memorable birthday? Not in a good way... It was my 25th and Katie was in my apartment sick while my brother and I and some friends went out to "ride the rail" at Molly's in DeKalb, Illinois.  We were blitzed. My brother nearly got in a fight with one of my good friends on the way home.  And I passed out in a bathtub with Katie cursing and swearing my existence because she was already sick taking care of a drunken fool.
  21. Where were you born? Rochester, New York.
  22. What’s the last thing you ate? A miniature Take 5 candy bar.  I needed a sugar fix.
  23. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Midnight blue.
  24. Favorite flower? I really liked the one that Katie and I saw at Ben Pao's in ChicagoRex Enigma thinks it's a spider mum.  I'll have to take his word for it.
  25. What fabric detergent do you use? I think it's All right now.
  26. Coke or Pepsi? Coke, normally.  Pepsi when they offer free songs on iTunes (I have no loyalty when it comes to free stuff).
  27. Do you wish on stars? It's been a while, but, yes.
  28. What is your shoe size? 10.5-11.5 depending on the shoe manufacturer.
  29. Do you have any pets? Nope.
  30. Last person you talked to on the phone? My wife, Katie.
  31. What did you want to be when you were little? An astronaut or a firefighter.
  32. What are you supposed to be doing right now? I prefer not to say so as not to incriminate myself.
  33. What do you first notice about someone? The tone of their voice and I adjust my posture and facial expressions accordingly.
  34. Siblings? One brother.  Now I have two brothers-in-law and one future sister-in-law.
  35. MisclegobrickWhat was your favorite toy as a child? Star Wars and G.I. Joe figures when I was playing with friends.  Legos otherwise.
  36. Summer or winter? It's easier for me to stay warm in the cold than it is to stay cool in the heat.  So, winter.
  37. Hugs or kisses? Hugs are nice because you can tell if someone really means it.
  38. Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate.
  39. Who is most likely to steal this meme? No obligation here, but I would be curious what Sandra would say.
  40. Who is least likely to steal this meme? Jenny.  I don't think she digs memes.
  41. Living arrangements? Townhome purchased December, 2004.
  42. When was the last time you cried? The ending of The Family Stone.  Yes, I can be a sentimental sap sometimes.
  43. What is under your bed? A few flat storage boxes for extra clothes.
  44. How many countries have you visited? Five: U.S., Mexico, Canada, Cayman Islands, and Belize.
  45. In how many cities have you lived? Eight: Fairport, NY; Lexington, KY; West Hartford, CT; Bristol, CT; Naperville, IL; Ames, IA; DeKalb, IL; and Geneva, IL.
  46. Favorite movie of all time? The Shawshank Redemption.
  47. Mountains or beach? Mountains.  I love the seclusion and the adventure.  Although I'm a big scuba diving freak so this is a tough one to answer.
  48. The current friend you have known the longest? That I remain in touch with?  Frank.  Known him since junior high although we lost touch for a few years during college.
  49. Full names of your potential kids? I refuse to answer this on grounds the names may be stolen.
  50. Usual bedtime? Between 11 p.m. and midnight.

And, since I forgot to post the ticker yesterday...

Episodes Elapsed: 43 (now in season 2)
Episodes Remaining: 53
Season 5 Premiere: Jan. 15 (4 days)
Official 24 Web site

Got their wires pulled out...

MisctivowirelessOh, if only my cell phone were this flippin' small.

What is this, you might ask?

It's the new TiVo wireless adapter.  This allows me to disconnect my TiVo from my phone line as well as share programs between the two TiVos that Katie and I have at home.  Even if we record a show on the TiVo in the living room, we can now watch it in the bedroom as well or load it to a wireless enabled laptop (which is something I still haven't quite figured out... I've tried a Linksys wireless adapter and an Apple Airport card and neither worked).

It connects via USB cable to the back of a TiVo and the grey faceplate flips open for signal pickup purposes (or so I would think).  It supports both 802.11b and g wireless networks (geek talk; if you don't understand it, don't ask).

Cooler still is that now that we have our TiVos connected to broadband as opposed to our phone lines, we have access to a photo library and networked games through our TVs.  I haven't played with this yet, but it sounds pretty cool.

And, finally, the other cool thing is that, apparently, TiVo has some sort of working agreement with Yahoo so that people who use Yahoo television listings can simply click a TiVo icon in the listings and a signal will be sent from the computer you're using to your TiVo and set it to record the show.  No longer will I need to race home after work to set the TiVo for a show I forgot about.  Just *click* and watch.  And I've done this whole race-home-and-set thing more times than I care to admit.

Ahhhh... A boy and his toys. 

Monday, you can fall apart...

I've been harboring some kind of illness since late last week.  I didn't think it was all that big a deal until even my boss said I didn't look quite right (before you say anything, Allison, she was talking about my appearance, not my mental state).

Saturday, I started feeling better.

Then Sunday hit.  And my annual pseudo-laryngitical "condition" began to kick in a bit.

Typically, every year, I will wind up with laryngitis once (it skipped by me last year).  I don't know why it happens, but it does.  I just wake up one day and it feels as though I'm experiencing puberty again.  My voice cracks, when it's even audible, and my throat feels like 80-grit sandpaper.

And I did two very stupid things to aggravate it further...

1. I went to my parents' house to hook up their TiVo (which was an adventure in itself) and was exposed to their cats.  I had two cats when I was younger and living at their place.  But I was always borderline allergic.  However, I loved my cats enough that I dealt with it by taking allergy meds year round.  Now that I'm not around cats on a regular basis, it hits me pretty hard whenever I visit.  Dogs aren't much better, either.

2. I went to the Blackhawks game with Katie last night.  Let me tell you, sitting in an enclosed stadium that has the temperature set very low to prevent overheating of the arena ice is not a good thing when you're already sick.  And the fact that the Hawks got trounced so badly by the Predators didn't help much, I'm sure.  They could've at least sent me out of the United Center on a high note.

So, now I'm at home and not feeling all that great.  When I called in this morning to work, I found out that even my boss was out sick.  Not a good sign.  Hope I didn't give her what was festering in me on Friday.

But, there was a good thing to come from this.  Katie doesn't work until 3 p.m. on Mondays, so we got to spend the morning and early afternoon together.  That was very nice.  And, what did we do?  We watched some more 24.  Before you all get on my case about not being romantic, bear in mind that I was sick and it was her idea to watch the show.  She's even more hooked than I am. 

We're over halfway through season 2 now and we will soon need to pick up season 3.  Thankfully, I've wheeled and dealed to the point where seasons 1 and 2 cost me a grand total of $9 (and both were brand new).  Let's see if I can work my magic with obtaining seasons 3 and 4.  Anyone want to place bets?

Episodes Elapsed: 39 (now in season 2)
Episodes Remaining: 57
Season 5 Premiere: Jan. 15 (6 days)
Official 24 Web site

The ice is thin, come on in...

Here's the game plan for today...

After a few more hours trying to achieve our 96-episode goal on 24, Katie and I will be driving into Naperville where she will drop me off at my parents' house so I can spend some time hooking up their TiVo and she will be going to a baby shower for our friends Graham and Kristy.

MiscblackhawksAfterwards is when the fun begins.

I will be taking Katie to her first-ever hockey game.  She's never been to one whereas I've been to dozens.  I love hockey even though I don't really keep up as much with the Chicago Blackhawks as I once did, but the game is still so much fun to watch because it's so fast paced. 

She's been wanting to go for some time now, but finding time is difficult and the NHL lockout last season didn't make it much easier.

Yeah, we could've seen the Chicago Wolves play since they're not NHL and were not affected by the lockout, but, again, time was an issue.  And so was money.  There are so many other things that we could spend that money on than hockey.

But these tickets are free.  And so is the parking.  How can you say no to that?

You can't.

You just go.  And you enjoy.  And you root for fights and blood on the ice.


Episodes Elapsed: 31 (now in season 2)
Episodes Remaining: 65
Season 5 Premiere: Jan. 15 (7 days)
Official 24 Web site

Did you hear what I said; come into the white...

I am going to usher you into the weekend with another new mystery photo contest

I figure if I want to get as many people involved in this little game as possible, I should try to do it semi-regularly.  And, since I'm only doing one photo at a time, being able to develop some sort of regular schedule shouldn't be that difficult.

This contest will close on Monday, January 9, 2006, at some point in the evening when I find myself able to check in.  So keep those guesses coming until that time.  Maybe I should pull a Tonya and say that you can only enter once per four-hour period to give other people a chance.

What am I?

Episodes Elapsed: 24 (season 1 complete)
Episodes Remaining: 72
Season 5 Premiere: Jan. 15 (8 days)
Official 24 Web site

Thursday, never turning back...

Why is it that just when you start to settle into a television viewing regimen that networks decide to screw it all up for you?

MiscearlFirst, it was the announcement made by NBC that they would be moving My Name is Earl to Thursday nights.  Not entirely terrible considering that it was done to give the old Tuesday time slot back to Scrubs.  Since there is only one other show we watch at 8 p.m. CST on Thursday (C.S.I.), Katie and I were okay with it.

Now, however, FOX makes the horrifically suicidal decision to move The O.C. to the same time slot on Thursday night.  They did this because they are airing American Idol at 7 p.m.

But don't forget about lowly little ABC who wants a piece of the Thursday night action and will be airing a 90-minute version of Dancing With the Stars starting at 7 p.m. on Thursday.  This, of course, means that the last half hour will cut into C.S.I., My Name is Earl, and The O.C.

Note to network execs at FOX, NBC, and ABC:
GET YOUR HEADS OUT OF YOUR ASSES!  C.S.I. is one of the biggest and most-watched shows in the history of the television medium.  Do you really think your shows can compete?

I already forgave NBC for moving Earl over as Katie and I could nab both on two different TiVo units. 

However, The O.C. is a guilty pleasure for us and word that it was moving to the same time slot really screwed us up.  I don't want to give up Earl as I really enjoy it.

So we came up with yet another solution that benefits us both in more ways than one.  We would set the TiVos for The O.C. and C.S.I. and then go to the gym where I could watch Earl while on a treadmill, bike, elliptical machine, etc.

Hey!  That works.

Until, that is, I read today that Dancing is airing 90-minute episodes that overlap into my coveted 8 p.m. slot.  Katie and I watched Dancing weekly over the early part of the summer.  Stupid show, but we liked it all the same.  I think she wants to keep watching it if at all possible.

But how?  How, I ask you?

I'm not buying another television.  We've got to do some schedule wrangling.  Maybe Dancing is what Katie will be watching at the gym while I'm tuned in to Earl.

Episodes Elapsed: 24 (season 1 complete)
Episodes Remaining: 72
Season 5 Premiere: Jan. 15 (9 days)
Official 24 Web site

Stuck in the Middle with you...

I know what some of you are going to say after reading this entry... "Kevin, you're such a geek!"

I admit it, I am.  But I'm going to post it anyway.

Yesterday, a guy I work with posed a question to me...

"Kevin," he typed.  "I had an argument/debate with my roommate the other night about the possible time period in which The Lord of the Rings occurred in.  I argued for the possibility of it being earth in the future; but for some odd reason, the oaf who calls himself my roommate laughed at it.  Since my opinion rarely falters and my wizard like powers give me insight into the world behind the curtain, I do not think that I can be wrong!"

The e-mail was signed "Jason the White."  I replied by saying that I was happy to hear he had been reborn from his questionable days as "Jason the Grey."  Ah, forget it, you've gotta know the books.

I've gotta admit that the prospective setting of LOTR is something I've wondered about as well; however, I can honestly say I've never been involved in a heated argument one way or the other.

MiscgandalfThe romantic in me always believed that the LOTR novels were set in an Earth of the past.  Sometime predating the Middle Ages when there was still so much territory to discover and characters and settings as varied as those described by J.R.R. Tolkien could exist in some semblance of seclusion from the rest of the world.  Plus, I always felt that "Middle" was a name assigned incorporating the idea that "Early Earth" would be the dinosaur era and "Late Earth" would be the era we are now in.

And, for whatever reason, I always assumed it was set in Europe. There was no real logic used in making this assumption, it was just what I always envisioned.

There are, of course, flaws in my theory that I suddenly began to realize as I thought about Jason's question.  For example, how could a place as sprawling as Middle Earth possibly exist without the knowledge of others?  Also, maps that have been included in the LOTR texts show Middle Earth as one solid land mass (with a few errant islands).  There is nothing else around it at all.  If Sauron was as powerful and all-knowing as he claimed to be, wouldn't he know of other continents on planet Earth and see these as conquerable territories?  Or wouldn't those with the capacity to sail have ventured forth to see what there is to discover?  There must've been a Erik the Red or Marco Polo somewhere in the bunch.

This leads to my revised theory that maybe Middle Earth was a place that would have existed even further back in history when Pangaea was the only continent on Earth, well before continental drift happened.  Not nearly as romantic as my long-held, aforementioned belief, but it seems more logical.

Until, that is, you remember that Middle Earth was co-habitated by fully evolved human beings (Aragorn and Boromir being the two primary ones mentioned in the novels).  If humans were not good enough in God's eyes in the days of Pangaea, why would he have given us a second chance millions of years later after re-evolving from apes?  (oh, and yes, I believe in evolution). Would this mean that there is a chance God will give dinosaurs another shot after we're done with our Earthly reign of eco-terror?

We now move on to Jason's belief that Middle Earth is something that will happen in the future.

There is some logic to this theory.  Hear me out...

  • At the rate we're going, a nuclear disaster is still a possibility and could easily wipe out the majority of the human residents of Earth.
  • Not only would all modern technology and industrialization be wiped out, but the resulting radiation would likely liquify the polar ice caps melting all low-lying land and leaving very little uncovered. 
  • Before any surviving lifeforms could emerge from this disaster, hundred, maybe even thousands, of years may have passed allowing for the complete burial of any remains.
  • Some humans may have survived and started to rebreed, hence the low overall numbers of humans as described in Tolkien's novels; and they would be fully evolved as well.
  • The industrial revolution would work the same way it did for our era of human life... starting very primitive with the stone age and then move into the metal age and so on and so on.  So, if you were to give the residents of Middle Earth another few thousand years, they might return to the level of industrialization that we are currently at (here's hoping they do it with greater regard for the environment, though).
  • Other humans may also have survived but have been affected by the radiation thus resulting in hobbits, goblins, orcs, trolls, and elves who all basically look like humans with some severe physical abnormalities (and, in some cases, that's being really nice about it).
  • The dead humans that have been buried in the ground for so long would be the ones that Saruman and Sauron awoke to create their Uruk armies.

So, after thinking about it, I think I prefer this notion.  It really makes sense when you stop to consider it.

I know I'm thinking into this way too much.  But Jason's question really got me going.  And we all know what kind of peril that causes for all you, my dear readers.

(Gandalf artwork from www.pencilartbyjulie.com)

Episodes Elapsed: 17 (now in season 1)
Episodes Remaining: 79
Season 5 Premiere: Jan. 15 (10 days)
Official 24 Web site

I believe it (may be) time for me to fly...

Just about eight years ago, I started my first Web site.  It was a project for a Web design class in grad school at NIU.  It really was nothing.  A couple personal comments, a couple movie reviews, several images that I stole from the Web.  Basic GeoCities crap.  In fact, it was hosted on GeoCities

I think the original URL of my site was something like www.geocities.com/hollywood/theater/2754 or some ridiculously long name like that.  They later gave us the option of coming up with a shorter naming scheme, which required us coming up with a username.  I was a bit late and, somehow or another, someone else grabbed the name "kapgar."  I looked around my apartment at the time and saw a VHS copy of the Hitchcock thriller Psycho and an album from the band KISS.

I thus became www.geocities.com/~psychogene.

A few years later, GeoCities was gobbled up by Yahoo!  I wasn't too perturbed.  Maybe I'd finally have better customer service, something GeoCities was desperately lacking.  I became one with Yahoo.  We were able to keep all our original usernames if we wanted, so I did (in hindsight, not a great choice as I'm still "psychogene" in the Yahoo lexicon -- my Web site, my fantasy sports logins, my DSL account, etc.).  But, they tagged all us GeoCities transplants with the '.geo' qualifier at the ends of our usernames so we stood out as the redheaded stepchildren that we were. 

I was now geocities.yahoo.com/~psychogene.geo.

I soon upgraded to a small business account through Yahoo's Web developer program and was able to get my own URL sans the psychogene.geo moniker.

I became www.kapgar.com and still am.

Why am I detailing all this garbage?

MiscmicroyahooBecause there are rumblings that Microsoft wants to buy Yahoo.  They made an initial offer of $80 billion that Yahoo turned down as "too little."  I'm sure this won't thwart Microsoft.  They'll come back with another offer, without a doubt.  Microsoft will get Yahoo, I'm nearly positive.  Once they set their minds to it, they'll achieve a task at hand.  Money be damned.


I refuse to become one with the Evil Empire.  Forget Darth Vader!  The Dark Lord of the Sith is a schmuck in my book when compared to the tyranny that is Bill Gates.

I do not want to be a part of Microsoft!  I'm a Mac Man.  I can't have the knowledge that I'm one with Microschlock hanging over my head.

No... non... nein... nyet... HELL NO!

I know I have my own URL and whatnot so I wouldn't have to worry about becoming www.microsoft.com/kapgar or the like.  But seeing that "charge to Microsoft Corp." comment on my credit card billing statement would kill me.

I've been debating leaving Yahoo for a few months now as I'd like to use my kapgar.com URL on this blog, but Yahoo won't allow me to domain map it.  I'd have to use some other host entirely.

Is it easy to transfer a URL from one service provider to another?  What do you suggest as another ISP and registration service?  Is GoDaddy any good?  I'd like it to be as cheap as possible (I'm currently paying Yahoo only about $12 a month for both domain registration and site hosting).

This straw is just too much for this camel's back. 

I think it's time to jump the Yahoo ship and find another host.

Episodes Elapsed: 15
Episodes Remaining: 81
Season 5 Premiere: Jan. 15 (11 days)
Official 24 Web site

Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?

Yes folks, after being inspired by something I saw this morning, I felt it was time for another Kapgar.com Mystery Picture ID Contest!

*random clapping and hoots and hollers erupt around the blogosphere*

Tell me if you can figure out what this random mess is.  Of course, as always, there is no guarantee of a prize.  Just the ability to say "Hey! I'm smart and have keen visual acuity" or some such.  You can word it however you like and I'll sign off on it.

And I have just one quick final thing I'd like to say... "Blue, you're my boy!"

Episodes Elapsed: 13
Episodes Remaining: 83
Season 5 Premiere: Jan. 15 (12 days)
Official 24 Web site

Every minute, every hour, every day...

Hello, my name is Kevin and I'm an addict...

Misc24logoYes, I am addicted to the show 24.  You all know the show.  It's the FOX juggernaut that pits CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) agent Jack Bauer, played by Kiefer Sutherland, against a host of baddies.  But what makes the show unique is that each one hour episode is an actual hour in a day.  Yes, the show is a really twisted "day in the life of" sort of get up.

Well, I missed the entire first season despite wanting to watch it.  And I only caught two episodes in the second season (which were really good).  But I tuned in every week through seasons 3 and 4. 

The only thing I didn't like was the fact that I was the only one who watched this show.  Katie didn't really care to tune in with me so I was stuck trying to watch it during that rare moment when she was at work or maybe early in the morning before work so I wasn't cutting into our personal time by watching a show she wouldn't watch.

But all that changed beginning last night.

Hello, my name is Katie and I, too, am an addict...

We had a couple friends over yesterday to watch as the Bears got trounced by the Vikings.  In between the first and second quarters, I ran to a local pizza place to pick up our meal.  When I got back, I was met with Katie up in my face asking if I wanted to go out that night and buy season 1 of 24 on DVD and start watching it immediately.

I looked over to Eric, who is an avowed 24 freak, and he just shrugged his shoulders. Apparently, it wasn't his doing.  Katie just started asking questions about the show and he answered them.  The questions were likely brought on by the airing of commercials for the season 5 premiere in a couple weeks.

Later, after Eric and Laura left, I asked Katie if she was sure about wanting to watch it.  She said yes.  So I went to Wal-Mart armed with our gift card and picked up the first season.  We got through five episodes last night and another four today (just until Katie had to go to work).  We are probably going to watch another three or four tonight before bed and maybe one or two in the morning before work.  And, then some more after work tomorrow.  Right now, we are through nine episodes (2 and 1/4 DVDs) and, at this rate, we'll be done with season 1 by Friday or early Saturday at the latest. 

And it's Katie who keeps wanting to watch more.  She just keeps trying to find time to watch another episode.  Each time an episode ends, she looks at me with puppy-dog eyes that beg for more.

I'm loving it.  I've got another 24 compatriot.  This is another show that Katie and I will watch together and I no longer need to find time to fit in my episode viewings.

Now, do you think we'll be able to finish seasons 2-4 before the season 5 premiere on the 16th?  We're gonna try.

Hey, what can it be on the big white screen...

Happy New Year to all of you! 

Unless, of course, you are of Chinese or some other religious or ethnic background that celebrates their New Year on an entirely different day. 

If you are one of these others, please bookmark this page and revisit it on the appropriate day. 

Thank you.

--The Management

Since I spent yesterday writing about the best films of 2005, I felt this might be an appropriate time to look to the future and talk about some of the films that I am most looking forward to seeing this coming year.  Oh, and yes, this post was loosely inspired by another of Xtine's posts.

I'm an idea thief, I admit it.

Miscdavincicode1. The Da Vinci Code
I loved this book despite the suspension of disbelief necessary to swallow all of it fully.  But I really cannot wait to see what Ron Howard has done with the content.  Am I a bit afraid?  Sure.  There's a lot of meat to this book and I know that not even close to all of it can be included in a single film.  But Howard is a pretty good director.

I only wish that the casting had gone a little differently.  While I love the casting of Audrey Tautou (I love her, love her, love her), Jean Reno (he's the consummate Professional, need I say more?), and Paul Bettany (who will be playing a bad guy in this and Firewall with Harrison Ford in 2006), I really wish Tom Hanks wasn't the choice for Robert Langdon.  I love Tom Hanks, but I don't feel he's the best for the film.  Sure, he'll do a good job and people will rave about him as they always do and I will probably even wind up liking him when all is said and done.  But I just had someone else in mind when the film was in preproduction.  For my money, the best choice would have been Nip/Tuck's Dylan Walsh (Sean McNamara).

2. The Producers
I never saw the Broadway show but always wanted to.  Just never had much of a chance to visit NYC.  Simply put, I really like Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick and can't wait to see what their on-screen chemistry is like considering how long they performed together on stage.  Should be second to none.  Okay, second to Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau who are the ultimate on-screen duo in my book.

Plus, we get Uma Thurman looking a lot hotter than she has in a while and Roger Bart (the pharmacist from Desperate Housewives) who I think is probably a damn good actor who's going to be forever remembered as the creepy stalkerish former fiancee of Bree van de Kamp.  Shame, too. 

The only problem I have with this film is the casting of Will Ferrell.  A couple years ago, this would not have been a problem.  But each and every one of his films this past year made me loathe him more and more.  He was the worst part of Bewitched, he ruined Kicking and Screaming, and he had the most vile and useless cameo ever in The Wedding Crashers.

3. Poseidon
Yes, it's a remake.  Something I normally detest.  But I'm a Kurt Russell fan and this looks like it could be good, old-fashioned, popcorn-munching fun.  I think this is a must-see on the big screen.

4. Cars
I have no idea what it's about other than talking cars.  But it's Pixar and that alone should attest to its likely success.  I have yet to dislike a Pixar film.

5. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
It's Johnny Depp reprising his role as Jack Sparrow!  He was incredible in the first film and I am very much looking forward to this one.  Yes, it could very easily flop.  We all know that.  But I think many of us expected the first one to be terrible as well considering the source material (a ride in Disney World).

Now if only he'd kill off Orlando Bloom early on...

6. Casino Royale
I know many are not looking forward to this movie, the next in the James Bond series, especially considering the producers choice as the new 007, Daniel Craig.  Yes, folks, he's relatively unknown and... *gasp*... blonde!  But, have you seen Layer Cake?  That tells me all I need to know.  I will give the man a chance.

This film is supposed to be much darker than the Pierce Brosnan-era Bond films.  Something much more akin to the Timothy Dalton films (Licence to Kill and The Living Daylights), which remain amongst my favorite Bond films of all time.

7. Superman Returns
Taking their cue from the success of the pseudo-prequel Batman Begins, the Superman series is being resurrected (though it wasn't in nearly as bad a shape as the Batman series when last we saw our heroes) and refocused on his younger years.  Brandon Routh stars as Supes/Clark Kent and the supporting cast includes Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane and Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor.  Hmm...

8. Che
There's still no guarantee that this will come out in 2006, but I'm holding out hope.  I like the idea of Benicio del Toro playing the revolutionary Che Guevara and hope that this film sees a pretty wide release.  Although, with my luck, it will be a very small-run film.

This list is just based on what I know is scheduled to be released in 2006.  There could be much, much more with which I am currently unfamiliar or that has not already been given a release date.  We shall see how the year shapes up.